Category Archives: Letters from Armorica

Letters from Armorica- The Farm (13 August 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Bertrand and I have been installed at The Farm, and I am not best pleased about it.

I spoke with Jack on Wednesday as planned, and told him all I knew of Trout and his intentions for me. It seems that Le Maréchal and his few remaining troops have indeed retreated to Guyagão as Trout said, and that the region is being watched…but Jack is unaware of any planned efforts to draw the cochons from their hiding places.

"His Majesty's Government is pleased to let them rot in the swamps," he told me. "We'll keep an eye on them, and we'll certainly prevent any would-be recruits from joining them, but there's little enough harm they can cause there."

Further, he has never heard of Trout or of any secret doings His Cumbrian Majesty's Government might have in train in Armorica.

"That means little, though," he said. "As His Lordship's aide I hear things, but I don't hear everything. Still, I don't like you going off with him, not when we know he's lying to you." He shook his head. "And yet, there is little we can do other than arrest the man when next he presents himself at your guild hall. I would be pleased to arrange that. But if he is genuinely in His Majesty's service, His Majesty's Government would be…displeased."

"Perhaps His Lordship knows more?"

"He might; and you'd best believe that I shall ask him instanter. But if he doesn't we are simply left in the same position as before. Tell you what, coz, let me speak with him. He'll have to decide what's best to be done. Where shall I send word to you?"

"It would look odd if we met again; and I have to assume that Trout has me under observation. Perhaps send a messenger to Suprenant et Fils? I dine with them tomorrow night."

"I shall do so."

"I don't suppose you could simply speak to him; if he's on His Majesty's service he must have some way of proving it. Some code word or something?"

"But how would we know he is here? The man's been careful not to draw official attention. No, if we bring him in we'd best arrest him outright, for he sure's to know you've been talking to us. We'll have to make inquiries to the folks at Home, and that will take time."

It would, and several months of it even by fast cutter.

"I suppose I must go with him on Friday, then."

"I'm afraid so. But if I know His Lordship, you won't be as alone wherever you're going as Trout thinks you are. We'll be keeping an eye on you."

I nodded. "Perhaps you could make discreet inquiries about my status in the Guild? Trout was so good as to inform me that I owed my chain solely to him, and that he could remove it at any time. I've no idea whether the Guild knows anything about the business or not."

"Messing in guild business, is he? That could be helpful." Jack nodded. "Aye, it could. His Lordship will want to know about that." He eyed me over the last of his ale. "You have a way to get in touch if trouble arises?"

"Yes, I do. I can send word through M. Suprenant; he will know how to reach you."

"Good, then. I'm off, and you'll hear from me tomorrow."

And so I did, but it was brief: "Trout unknown. L.D. will inquire. Eyes open. J."

"L.D." was surely Lord Doncaster; and "Eyes open" presumably was a warning to me and also a promise from Jack, and with that I had to be satisfied.

Trout came with a cart this morning, and carried us north out of town, into a region I'd not ventured into before. It took us several hours to reach what I am calling The Farm: several small fields surrounded by collapsing fences and stone walls near a farm house that will need several days worth of work to be livable, the whole shrouded in deep forest.

"I'm sorry I was not able to find a place in better repair," he said, "but there is fuel and food. I shall return in a week." Of course he wasn't a bit sorry. I told him we would manage, and he did not linger.

And so here we are, Bertrand and I, and I am writing by the light from the kitchen fire for though there is firewood there is no oil and no lamp. Trout made no comment at any time today as to my progress, and I fear that his real goal is only to have me out of communication. He is doomed to disappointment if so.

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Letters from Armorica- Preparations (8 August 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Trout has informed me that we shall be moving to a place he calls "The Farm" at the end of the week; consequently, I am to wrap up our efforts here in Mont-Havre and pack up anything we must take with us. Perhaps fortunately, the hardened block in my first trial quite gave up the ghost sometime during the night; when I tested it this morning it crumbled quite easily. Thus, I have my first data point: under constant load and with the given sizes, weights, and degree of lift, an otherwise unstressed hardened block survived just under twenty days.

This suggests two subsequent trials, which will have to wait until we are settled once again. First I must replace the hardened block with a hardened rod of similar weight, under continual physical stress; and second, at Bertrand's excellent suggestion, another test in which the lifting block is present but not in fact lifting anything. I had considered that to be pointless, but Bertrand is right: Marc Frontenac's sky-sled failed after having been left idle and unused for some weeks. That leaves one of three possibilities. First, the sled may have been on the verge of failure when Marc put it away. Second, it may have been sufficiently near a warming block, or some other greedy object, that its hardened elements were consumed. Or third, the hardened members might be affected by the mere presence of the lifting and steering blocks, even if they are not in use. I find either of the first two possibilities to be most likely, but I must not discount the third, not given my current state of knowledge!

But that will have to wait for next week. In the meantime I have my preparations to make, including several that Trout will, I trust, never discover. Tomorrow I shall send an arrow to my Amelie. On Tuesday I shall dine with M. Suprenant and his family, and I shall leave with him a new receiving board and some arrows, so that we may communicate privately from the Farm wherever it turns out to be.

And on Wednesday I shall lunch with Jack, and I have determined to tell him all that had gone on and is still going on with Trout—although, of course, Trout has directed me to speak of his plans to no one. I am not pleased to be putting myself further into the man's power. He remains incurious as to my degree of progress, merely inquiring if all is going well, and my sense that he is playing some deeper game at my expense increases with each meeting.

How I wish Bois-de-Bas were closer to Mont-Havre! Using the arrows I can summon aid from Marc and the other townsfolk in quite a short time; but with the sky-chairs and wagons currently out-of-use it will take them days to come to me. Hence I must speak to Jack—for I am certain that neither he nor Lord Doncaster have any real notion of Trout's plans.

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Letters from Armorica- All My Trials (25 July 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I nearly suffered a stroke of apoplexy yesterday morning. I woke with a start and—but all things in their places.

At the beginning of the week I set up my first trial. As I do not have much space and cannot reasonably run multiple trials simultaneously, I decided on a design that should run its course as quickly as possible. Which is to say, I formed a small piece of coral wood into the strongest lifting block of its size that I could manage, and used my new balance to set it to offset ten pounds of weight. Truly it is fascinating sight: an ounce of wood floating on a string above one pan of the scale, as compared to the bulk of the metal weights in the other pan. And that little block is lifting 160 times its own weight.

Nearby I placed another block of coral wood, this one fully hardened. I have checking the second block several times a day for signs of crumbling. So far it remains in its hardened state.

I wonder: should I presume that a block's maximum lift is proportional to its weight or to its volume? I shall have to acquire two blocks of bronzewood, one the size of my coral wood block and one the same weight. And then I shall have to go lie down, for this mathematical kind of thinking makes my head spin. Perhaps I should have summoned Luc rather than Bertrand!

But I am grateful that Bertrand is now here. He is good company, for one thing; and after his years of friendship with Luc he is a good listener and sounding board. I have introduced him to the Suprenants (and I fear he will soon be as thick as thieves with certain of M. Suprenant's offspring), and he has proven adept at working with wood. I begin to understand why my father and the other masters of the guild in Yorke have little in the way of private practice, as I do in Bois-de-Bas, but do their work, as it were, industrially. It is too useful to have someone else provide both the materials for forming and the matrix into which they will be assembled. I should consider taking Bertrand on as another apprentice, but that I should be doing him a disservice: within the guild he could never be more than a kind of servant, for he has no talent for forming at all.

But yesterday morning, as I lay in bed, it occurred to me to wonder why the hardened block was still unaffected. Mind you, that was an absurd thing to wonder: it has been less than a week, and my work in Bois-de-Bas lasted for over a season before troubles set in. And I told myself so, and my thoughts drifted to the guild house itself, and its construction by the first members of the Confrerie des Thaumaturges to come to Armorica…and that's when I sat bolt upright. Had they used forming while building the hall? Is that why it was still in such excellent condition after so many years of neglect? Had the timbers, or the paneling, or, the heavens forfend, the windowsills been hardened or otherwise formed in a way that would throw off my experiments?

I leaped to my feet, dressed, and spent the rest of the day inspecting the Guild Hall from foundation to roof peak. And now I am pleased to say that, no, it owes its longevity to the materials used, not to the forming skills of my predecessors. My trial is safe.

This first trial is intended, of course, to determine how a hardened block will degrade in the presence of a greedy object when the hardened block is subjected to no effort at all. In the next trial I must subject to the hardened block to some kind of strain. I am not quite sure how to do that; I can hardly have Bertrand stand by it and bang it with a hammer at intervals for days on end. Or, rather, I could, but I should hate to have to listen to the banging, and once we have a larger space to work with and can run multiple trials simultaneously the labor involved would be prohibitive. I picture Bertrand running from one end of a field to the other, hour after hour, pausing every fifty feet or so to strike a wooden block with a hammer. I simply could not afford it: the lad eats enough as it is!

What if I were to use a hardened rod, and suspend weights from both ends? That would be a continual source of strain rather than an intermittent series of blows, as a hardened pot would receive while in use, but it would be easily measured!

Speaking of work space, Trout called on me today; he has found a suitable property for my work, so he says, and we may remove to it in two or three weeks once the arrangements are complete. He seems not at all worried about the delay; and I begin to wonder at his story about the pursuit of Le Maréchal and his men in Guyanão. If it is true, it would seem that he would need the fruits of my labor as soon as possible…but now that I am working for him he seems oddly content for me to take my time. Is he playing a deeper game?

Bah! I am grasping at straws. If they cannot catch les cochons, His Cumbrian Majesty's forces can certainly keep them bottled up in the jungle with little effort.

But then, why enlist me at all?

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Letters from Armorica- A Brief Respite (18 July 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Today I took a brief respite from my labors to attend divine services with the Suprenants, followed by a lovely Sunday dinner. It was life-saving, for I have been living at the Guild Hall and eating my own cooking—a skill I have never acquired, and for which I have no time! I wonder if Bertrand has any ability to cook. I wonder if Bertrand will be coming to help me. I found an arrow from Amelie awaiting me at the Suprenant's today, but it simply said that she understood my instructions and would attend to things in Bois-de-Bas. I take that as a good sign, but not as conclusive, for she will still have to deal with Bertrand's father.

I wonder if I can afford to hire a woman to come in and cook and clean the guild hall.

Mr. Trout thinks I am building models and perfecting my design, and in truth I have built a few models—the sort of thing I made when I first started thinking about flight last year—just so that there is something for him to see should he infiltrate the guildhall in my absence. I have also fashioned a hiding place for you, Dear Journal, of a sort only another former might notice. It wouldn't do for Trout or his agents to find you. I have also put a small amount of money and some papers in the hiding place beneath Master Grenadine's bed; if Trout goes looking he should find something, lest he keep looking!

But mostly I have been trying to work out plausible relationships between Greed and Generosity in formed objects: what Master Grenadine refers to as charité and envie. I have been re-reading him closely, trying to glean anything more that he has to say. But no, there is nothing. He got almost as far as Luc and I have in our observations, and he wrote them down in his highly poetic way; but beyond that he seems to have contented himself with idle speculation.

I wonder…perhaps there is nothing practical in his book because all of the practical applications are in his grimoire? They would be near the end, which I confess I have not read carefully. And, of course, I left his grimoire in Bois-de-Bas. I shall have to send another arrow to Amelie.

I spoke to M. Fournier yesterday, asking for books about mathematics. I should have done so a month ago, when I first thought of it. He had none, alas; as I believe I have noted before, his clientele purchases books to give the appearance of culture, not the appearance of learning. In better days, he told me, he might get me one from Toulouse in a matter of a few months. But it is not impossible, he told me, that there might be one among his acquaintances who is interested in such things, or who knows of such a person. I am to be patient.

In the meantime, I am pondering harmonie. Master Grenadine says that a thing exhibits harmonie if its formed parts exhibit charité and envie to the same degree, and describes harmonie as a blessed state much to be achieved. It is clear that he is speaking of exactly that state of balance between Greed and Generosity that I am seeking. And yet, how is one to know that two parts are in this state of balance without measurement? He doesn't say.

He goes on to wonder whether we might ever form a single thing that exhibits harmonie in and of itself. This is worth thinking on: would this be a hardened block that also warms, a thing formed in two distinct ways? An unusual thing to do, though I'm not sure why; and I don't know whether that would mean forming it in one way, and then, subsequently, in another. Or would it be something else, a new kind of forming altogether, where rather than aiming at a particular Greedy effect and also at a particular Generous effect, one aims at a single Harmonious effect?

I am not even sure that that last idea makes any sense! Indeed, I'm not sure that Grenadine distinguished between different kinds of Greedy or Generous effects.

In the meantime, I have at least managed to procure a balance and a set of weights, and a thermometer, by the simple expedient of telling Trout that I need them. They should arrive tomorrow; and then I can begin to get on with my trials.

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Letters from Armorica- Coercion (16 July 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

It seems that His Majesty's Government has been intercepting my mail to Cumbria, perhaps for the whole time I have been here in Armorica. I now know that the sky-chair plans I sent to my father never reached him, and that I have my master's chain not through any change of heart on my father's part, nor because my aunt forced his hand by speaking with Master Netherington-Coates, but solely through the machinations of Trout and his ilk.

I know this because Trout told me at our meeting that the sky-chair was now a tightly-held secret of His Majesty's Government, that I was not to speak of it to anyone, and that His Majesty was calling on me to, as he put it, "extend and elaborate" my design for the use of the Cumbrian Royal Army.

According to Trout, if anything he says is to be believed, Le Maréchal has fled with 500 men to a benighted land called Guyanão, a place of swamps, giant trees, torrential rainfall, and no roads to speak of. Evidently they are living on the sloops and other small craft by which they fled.

The Cumbrians—I had written "Our troops," Dear Journal, but I have struck it out though it pains me to do so—the Cumbrians, I say, have had great difficulty finding the Provençese forces, for they have nothing suitable for scouting in such an environment. The ground is unfit for foot travel, and though the forest is relatively open under the canopy of the trees, a sloop is not easily maneuvered. Moreover, the place has long been in the possession of the Provençese, and some of the cochons with him are familiar with it. They have exhibited great skill at moving from tree to tree, the better to set up ambushes.

His Majesty, Trout tells, wants sky-chairs, or something like them: something small, maneuverable, capable of carrying one, two, or three men and their weapons: precisely the sort of things I was building and have stock-piled on L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau.

And yet how can I in good conscience build them, knowing what I now know? If the war here in Armorica had continued any longer, my people would have begun to fall out of the sky!

My one salvation at this time is that Trout is not omniscient. He knows that I dropped out of sight for a time during the war; he doesn't know where I was, and he doesn't know how successful I was. He thinks the plans I sent my father are a possible design, a speculation still to be confirmed: a ploy, in fact, to try to get back in my father's good graces, as if I had ever been in them in my entire life. A ploy, but a plausible one, and of sufficient potential value that I am ordered here to Mont-Havre to perfect it. I am grateful that he knows no more than that: for if he knew that I had already succeeded I am sure that I should have already been spirited away to some benighted place, there to labor for the Royal Navy until Trout should find it prudent to let me go.

I must determine how to balance greed and generosity in my designs, how to build robust sky-chairs, sleds, and wagons—for I will not send men like Jack to their deaths at my hands. If only I had more time! But I have no choice in the matter: for it seems that my mastery has not yet been registered with the Guild in Mont-Havre.

"It pleases His Majesty's Government that you should be considered Grand Master of the Guild here in Armorica, and so there will no trouble, no trouble at all, Master Tuppenny," so he told me. The phrase, "just so long as you cooperate," went delicately unsaid. If I balk, His Majesty's Government may choose to see me as an imposter, as a rogue former pretending to a rank he does not possess—and by guild law, all my property would then be forfeit to the Guild in Yorke. Amelie would be destitute—or worse, the region around Bois-de-Bas would rise against Yorke as they did against Toulouse, and I not there to help them.

Trout thinks it desirable that I be visible in Mont-Havre, meeting occasionally with my friends—distressingly, he knows all of their names—but it is clear to both of us that I cannot do the work he requires at the Guild Hall, not once I get to the stage of practical models. I have told him that I must have a secluded place, open to the sky, where I may make trials unseen. He proposed a building with a courtyard here in the city; but, I told him, how was I to determine maximum velocities in a space of small compass? I proposed a farm, secluded, yet close enough to Mont-Havre that I can make regular visits, and with fields broad enough that one can get up a good degree of speed without fear of crashing.

Truly, of course, I simply want the space! For I will need to greatly accelerate the program of research that Luc began, and I must have space between the individual trials. Until I have it, I can do little but stew whilst making a show of things.

O Lord, help me in this time of trial!

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Letters from Armorica- Fire (16 July 35 AF)

First Letter

My dearest Amelie,

The news is not good, and I am glad that you insisted on remaining in Bois-de-Bas, especially in light of your condition. Indeed, I only wish I could be sure I might return home before the baby is due in October.

At noon today I arrived at the appointed inn for a meal with Cousin Jack—and there I found not him, but rather Mr. Trout—the little Cumbrian man who brought me my master's chain last October. I have not said much about him to you—for your own safety, for he frightened me—but now I believe I must tell you that Trout is an agent of the King, or, at least, of some dark chamber within His Cumbrian Majesty's government. He brought me my chain of office, but would not relinquish it to me unless I promised to carry out any orders he might give me during the course of the war. He made dire threats, and I was forced to acquiesce in order to receive my chain and so my office, from which I hope so many blessings will come for you and our children.

But little came of it, for the war ended here in Armorica shortly thereafter; and Lord Doncaster was able to come to Mont-Havre and take control with no help from me. At that time I had dared to hope that I had seen the last of Trout. But here he was at table in the little private room to which I was brought, in the same subfusc lawyer's garb he'd worn in Bois-de-Bas.

"Trout," I said. "I suppose it was always you I was to speak with, and not His Lordship."

"Indeed, Master Massey."

"The name is Tuppenny."

"As you wish." Trout is hard to read—he has no expression, and the glass in his square spectacles is thick—but I thought that I amused him.

"Where is my Cousin Jack?"

"Your cousin is a man who knows how to obey orders, Master Tuppenny. As, so I shall continue to presume, are you."

I suppose I mustn't say too much about what followed: Trout is no man to cross, and though he made no overt threats he did inquire after your health. We have friends; see that you keep them close. In particular, seek help from Jean-Baptiste and Brigitte!

Trout tells me that the fighting is going well in Provençe. Le Maréchal's forces have been broken and Toulouse has been captured. But Le Maréchal himself is still at large. To point not too fine a point on it, he has fled with a small but sturdy force, and has taken refuge—somewhere. Somewhere difficult. I am told that my skills are required.

I believe I will be allowed to stay here in Mont-Havre for the time being, working at the Guild Hall. I hope I will need to roam no farther than that—his Lordship will provide materials, and I shall provide the forming. I could use Luc here, but I think he will be more valuable in Bois-de-Bas tending our investigations. If he discovers anything of interest please send it on—it may be crucial. In the meantime, though, I do need help from someone I can trust. Would you please have Marc speak to M. Laveau? I should like him to send young Bertrand to me.

There is more I wish I could say; for now, please speak to Marc, for he knows everything that passed between Trout and I last year. You may show him this letter; and then, I suppose, you ought to burn it. Speak of this to no one by Marc!

I am writing this in M. Suprenant's study, and will send it to you by arrow; if you have need to contact me quickly, do reply to me here in the same manner. And do send me more usual news about the shop and our Anne-Marie by M. Suprenant's drovers, as is usual. Everything must seem normal.

I have managed to have a quiet word with Cousin Jack, who I may say is furious at the deception that has been practiced on me. He had no idea of Trout's existence until he was told not to come meet me today. He tells me that Sergeant Allen is one of his men, stout-hearted and a man to be trusted, and no creature of Trout's; and that he is under orders to give you any assistance should you need it.

I shall return to you as quickly as I may; and if anything changes—if, in particular, I am required to leave the city—I will send you an arrow.

In all haste,

Armand

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Letters from Armorica- Smoke (11 July 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Jack,

I should indeed be glad to come to Mont-Havre for a chat with you…but for a chat with Lord Doncaster? Are you sure that's wise? I wrote to you about my dinner with M. Archambault, I know I did. And I have been advised by M. Suprenant, my good friend, to keep clear of politics if I wish to thrive, and not to be seen as associated with either His Lordship or with Le Grand Parlement. I believe he is wise in this. Now, if you wish to put it about that I have been summoned by His Lordship, well. I can but obey.

Oh dear, that makes it sound like I am being balky and demanding written orders. I have heard you speak about that; and I should not wish you to think that I see either you or His Lordship in that light. Very well, I shall come to Mont-Havre, bringing a few articles of comfort to the Guild Hall; and whilst I am there I shall naturally sit down for a meal with my beloved cousin; and you shall make your case. But you must persuade me, Jack.

I must say a few words about your messenger, Sergeant Allen—retired, or so he says. Does he really mean to retire to Bois-de-Bas, or is this simply His Lordship's not particularly discreet way of keeping an eye on me? He shall have to make his own way, Jack, for I don't know him, at least not yet, and so cannot sponsor him. If he truly means to stay here and to open an inn he will find a welcome in the end, I think, but he will have to make his own way.

He has started well, I'll grant him that. He spoke kindly to Amelie, and inquired for a family where he might rent a room, and listened most attentively to the old men who frequent my workshop. And he has been making inquiries as to where he might find the necessities for brewing: kegs, grain, and so forth. That was well-done of him, Jack. He will undoubtedly need to send away for some things, as indeed we all do. But there is much to be had locally, and he will please the townsfolk if he buys it here.

I gather he is a countryman from well south of Yorke, and a twenty-year man, experienced, competent, bold but not brash. He is not overly handsome, but looks quite sturdy; and I may say that the young ladies in Bois-de-Bas have a great respect for sturdy. He might, in fact, do well here if he continues to step carefully.

I think I shall come to Mont-Havre all the more quickly, as the work on our new town hall has entered its next phase. Our men have been felling bronzewood trees for the past two weeks, and will fell the last perhaps the day after tomorrow; and after that they will begin to burn out the stumps. It has been smoky enough these past weeks as they burn the sawdust and trimmings; but nothing burns as smoky as a newly cut bronzewood stump. Nor is there any way to pull it from the ground in one piece!

I asked the cutters whether one might simply build the hall with an elevated floor, and leave the stumps in place beneath. They laughed, and told me that the old stumps would be quite likely to sprout, and we'd soon find our town hall rising into the air. "My uncle tried that nigh on twenty years ago, non?" said one to me. "He built his house over a stump four feet across. Les chèvres! By summer he was living in a tree house." "He had to build a ladder," said another. "And add to it week by week," said a third.

I still don't know whether they were teasing me or not, but yesterday I walked out to the place where it happened, and of a surety I saw the remains of a small house in the top of a tree, at least fifty feet from the ground, with a bit of ladder dangling. The roof and walls were mostly gone, but the bronzewood timbers preserved its shape quite nicely.

And so this week they shall start burning out the stumps. As the town hall site is only a short walk from my home, it is quite unpleasant.

Perhaps I shall bring Amelie and Anne-Marie with me. I am sure that in her condition, Amelie would be delighted to get out of the smoke.

Yours,

Armand

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Letters from Armorica- A Matter of Time (2 July 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have it! I woke up quite suddenly with the answer plain in my head.

For several weeks now I have been thinking of every method I might use to measure the hardness of a hardened block of wood. Most of them have involved using some kind of clamp or vise with a screw that I might tighten or loosen. How many turns would it take before the jaws of the clamp mar the surface of the block? I could repeat this trial periodically, looking for changes.

The difficulties here are obvious. First, it is quite difficult to ever mar the surface of a hardened object. That is one of the reasons why hardening is a mainstay of my craft. Second, tightening the clamp is exactly the sort of action that would cause the block to collect effort; and my trial is precisely to see how long it takes the block to become fragile before that happens.

And that, bluntly put, is the key. That is my epiphany—that I am making everything—hah—harder than it needs to be.

It is easy to tell when fragility has set in; Mme. Poquêrie brought me a plate that I was able to crumble between my fingers with no great amount of force. Many of the plates that were returned to me could be marred with a finger nail.

So I have no need to measure hardness. What I must measure is time. Given a newly hardened block of wood and a lifting block capable of suspending a particular weight, the two placed in close proximity, how long will it take before the block becomes fragile? It is so simple. I have asked this question of myself a hundred times at least, and especially when Luc returns from Marc's farm and says, "It is all just the same as yesterday." But I was so focussed on the degree of hardness remaining that I did not listen to myself.

But time is the key variable. First, so that I know how long a hardened object may safely be used, as part of a sky-chair or boat; and second so that I may learn how to extend that time.

Luc tells me that he had always planned to measure the length of time. "For the plates were quite hard until they started breaking," he said. Not for the first time it has occurred to me that my apprentice may be smarter than I am. I console myself with the thought that perhaps he has had a more congenial teacher than I did; and also that it was I who came up with the notion of using a balance to measure the degree of lift in a lifting block.

The best part of this discovery is that our work to date will not be wasted. We know when we set up our trial in the shed on Marc's farm; and once the hardened block begins to crumble I can bring the lifting block into the shop and measure how much weight it can suspend.

I wish we could run multiple trials simultaneously; but they would have to be wildly separated. Perhaps the next step is not to try again with a stronger lifting block, but to move the hardened block and the lifting block apart. There must be a distance beyond which the two blocks no longer affect one another. But hah! How will I ever know if they are far enough apart? All I can see is that the hardened block has not yet begun to crumble. If they are far enough part, it never will. I do not believe I can wait that long. We shall have to make some trials in that direction…but perhaps there is a farmer on the far side of Bois-de-Bas from Marc who would let me set up a shed. How ever large the distance must be, I am sure that it is well under a mile!

It is quite early…dawn is just creeping into the sky. I believe I shall put out my lamp and return to bed and see what sleep I might get before the cutters resume their work on the town hall grove.

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Letters from Armorica- Sawdust (27 June 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

They have begun cutting down the bronzewood trees at the site of the new town hall. I have spent a certain amount of time watching them this week, in my role as headman of the village—and I have carefully heeded the directions I was given to stay out of the way and well back. Cutting bronzewood is a tricky and dangerous business, and one that my people here are well familiar with; but it is rarely done so close to town these days. The trees are large, and the wood is tough, and no one wants a bronzewood tree to fall on their home.

Lesser trees can be felled using axes; bronzewood dulls an axe so rapidly that it isn't even worth trying. The loggers use what they call a cord-saw, some kind of tough cord impregnated with abrasive dust. They are made by forming, I gather, but the men know nothing about that. The first settlers brought some with them, knowing what they were getting into, and more have been imported from Provençe in the decades since. I have looked, but there is nothing like them in my grimoire. Perhaps Master Grenadine has something. Even if he does, though, it isn't clear that I could make more with what I have to work with.

There is considerable technique involved. The bronzewood tree has a tall and straight trunk with many branches, so the men begin by climbing the tree and lopping off the branches one by one. They work in two man teams, one man on each side of the trunk, and must trade off frequently: some of the branches are big enough to be used as timbers in their own right, and even the thin ones take a deal of cutting. When felling a grove of bronzewoods, as here, it is the custom to de-branch all of the trees before felling any of them.

Then—so I am told, for they have not gotten so far yet, they will pick a tree to fell, and attach a cable to its peak; the other hand goes through a block and tackle some distance away. That is to ensure that the tree falls in the desired direction. They then cut a large notch on that side of the trunk, and put tension on the cable; and then proceed to cut through the back side of the trunk. You must not picture them standing close to the tree at this time! The cutters use cord-saws that are many yards long (though only the center is abrasive), and the teams stand well to the left and the right. Note that I said "teams": for this phase, the cutting process resembles a tug-of-war, with four men on each side.

It is a long and onerous process, and I do not recommend arm-wrestling any of the cutters, for one is certain to lose.

Once the trees are on the ground they will be shaped into timbers in place. Bronzewood timbers are difficult enough to transport; bronzewood trunks are next to impossible. It was my romantic notion that we would then build the town hall using the timbers we had just cut down, but I was soon corrected. The timbers must be seasoned before use. These will go into storage, and the town hall will be built using timbers from trees that were felled last year.

All this is meant to say that the center of our village now resembles a logging camp, with all of the noise and mess that that implies. There is sawdust everywhere. Amelie has taken to leaving a broom and dustpan by the counter in her shop, and handing them to every person who comes in. And they, I might add, including many who would argue over the price of buttons and the look that Mrs. So-and-So gave them the other day, take these objects and clean up the mess without objection. There is nothing to be done with the dust but burn it, and so there is a constant smoky haze in Bois-de-Bas these days, and will be until the cutting is complete.

The noise is blessedly absent on this Sunday evening, but I begin to see why no one has built a town hall in the past.

Meanwhile, I am continuing to ponder how we might measure the effects of a formed object. Warming blocks are easy in principle, but difficult in practice, there being no thermometers in Bois-de-Bas, but I have sent to M. Suprenant to procure me one. He may well have to get it from Yorke or Toulouse.

Lifting blocks are easier, for all we need is a balance. (I am indebted to Luc for this notion.) Tie a string to the block, attach one end of the string to one arm of the balance, and add weights to the pan underneath until the arm is level. We have tried this with Amelie's balance, which is behind the counter in the shop, and it works fine. The difficulty here is that Amelie will not allow us to transport her balance to our shed at the back of Marc's field, on the flimsy excuse that she needs it in the shop. I have asked M. Suprenant to send me a level as well, and that, at least, he should be able to find in locally.

But warming blocks and lifting blocks are both greedy: both consume effort to produce their effects. For our trials, we must also measure a generous object, a collector of effort, to wit, something hardened. I am not sure how we do that. How does one measure hardness? It must involve putting pressure on the item in the some way…but putting pressure on the item will cause it to collect effort, which will then be given generously to the nearby consumer. What we are trying to measure is the decrease in hardness of the hardened item when it is not collecting a significant amount of effort.

With any luck, I shall have figured something out before my new balance arrives from Mont-Havre.

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Letters from Armorica- Greed and Generosity (20 June 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have slept little this past week, and burned vast quantities (it seems) of whirtleberry oil; and I scarcely finished my first mug of ale at the hot springs this afternoon before my eyes began to droop. The other men teased me, of course, and told me that one day perhaps I'd grow up and be able to hold my liquor. I am fortunate that it has been a peaceful week in Bois-de-Bas and that there were no serious disputes or concerns for me to address.

A site has been picked for the new Town Hall, the women of the town having been much in favor. From what Amelie tells me, that was due to the prospect of regular town dances than it was to the plight of the young unmarried men who have been coming to live here; but no matter. The women of Bois-de-Bas have spoken and driven their husbands before them. There was consequently much good-natured wailing and gnashing of teeth at the hot springs today, for the chosen site must be cleared of bronzewood trees; but the site is convenient to both the town square and to the entrance to the hot springs, and will, I think, do very well.

But as the result of my late nights I have been making great progress with Master Grenadine's Sur la Thaumaturgie. His terminology remains peculiar, but I am slowly coming to understand it, with many false steps. For example, he writes of objects that exhibit charité and those, opposed to the first, that exhibit envie. I at first guessed that by charité he meant something like the ability of a hardened plate to provide effort to another formed object, and that by envie he meant the ability of something like a warming block to want to pull effort from something else that has what it lacks. His notion of harmonie, then, would be the balance of charity against envy such that the envious object would pull no more effort from the charitable object than it was able to safely provide.

This was plausible but wrong. I spent most of the week under this impression, growing more and more confused, until I realized that I had it precisely backwards…or, perhaps, a bit sideways. To Grenadine, an object exhibits charité if it changes things in the world. A warming block gives off heat; a lifting block in a sky-chair raises it into the air. An object exhibits envie if its effect is in itself. A hardened plate accepts knocks and bangs. Harmonie, he says, lies in placing envious and charitable objects in proxity.

He then goes on to discuss various kinds of formed objects and whether they exhibit charity or envy, and then moves along to speculate as to whether we might some day discover a kind of forming that achieves la perfection: an object that achieves harmony in and of itself.

It is an interesting question, and I would greatly like to discuss it with another master former of greater experience. But Grenadine comes to no conclusions and so the idea isn't of much help in my current endeavors. And there is worse: he seems to have no notion of what I call effort, nor any thought to measurement. He speaks of harmonie, but he has no notion of balance. I fear that even in my limited efforts I have already exceeded him.

Perhaps, of course, he is wiser than I: perhaps my idea of effort flowing from hardened plates to warming blocks is incorrect. Perhaps it is possible to achieve harmonie without worrying about balance. But if I am right then his terminology is not only obscure but also unhelpful.

As I see it, a hardened plate or pot is a collector of effort; and it is generous to the extent that it will provide that effort to other things in its vicinity. A warming block is a consumer of effort; I conjecture that it has what I might call an appetite for effort in proportion to the degree of warming that it provides. Moreover, it is greedy: it will consume effort from a nearby plate until the plate falls apart. (One might say that the plate is generous to a fault.)

And this of course leads me to so many more questions! How much effort can a given collector collect before it gets "full"? Is there a limit? How fast can it provide effort to a consumer? Are there consumers that aren't greedy? Can a collector be protected against a consumer's greediness? And though I have come to believe that these things can be measured, by what means am I to do so?

Measurement is where it all begins. If I can measure, I can begin to address these questions. Either there will be some kind of proportion between effort provided and effort consumed, or there will not.

I suppose I must send to M. Fournier for a book on mathematics. Which will, be in Provençese, blast it.

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